As their write-up puts it, “Every tech company has side projects and Solid State is no different.” On the contrary, most tech companies don’t create a giant interactive wall using 2,040 RGB LEDs.
After being deep in client software work, the London-based Solid State Group team had agreed that their next internal project needed to be a physical thing. And so, they decided to build their own pixel wall.
The concept for RIO (Rendered-Input-Output) was inspired by Google’s AnyPixel project, but after considering using their library, the team instead chose to engineer something in-house. Their solution employs Slack as in interface for passing GIFs and video from the Internet to the display, which uses a Raspberry Pi to control a bunch of WS2812B strips.
Once we’d finished with our initial prototypes we had to start thinking about scaling up. With more pixels however comes more problems, LEDs gobble up RAM and draw a lot of power so we switched from an Arduino to a Raspberry Pi, and got ourselves a pretty hefty power supply. We mounted our LEDs (2,040 of them, to be exact) on a two-meter-wide piece of acrylic, ensuring our pixels were all equidistant distance from each other.
When it came to actually interacting with the wall, Solid State wanted to keep it flexible. To accomplish this, the mobile-savvy team developed their own app consisting of an SNES-like controller for playing retro games such as Snake, Breakout and Super Mario Bros., a messaging function to send texts to the wall, a live drawing application, and a virtual preview of what was being displayed.